Thursday, July 28, 2011

The good and the hard



Sometimes life seems simple and good. Sometimes life seems a bit difficult. Other times, it seems insurmountable and impossible to get through a day.

But most of the time, I learn that things are simply good because they are hard.

I am in the midst of being overwhelmed daily with anything and everything that comes my way and recognizing the "good" and the "hard" in it all. No one ever promised "easy" but, we all know that life is full of changing. New seasons sometimes seem to come about so slowly that you are unaware life is any different than it was a year ago. until you look around and your knee deep in dirty diapers and potty training. You've cleaned up "pee pee" off the wall and picked up "poop" that has missed the potty once again.
This is hard....but it is good.

Picking food off the floor again, mopping spilled juice up off the couch. Wishing I just get a new couch and a newly decorated living room, and while I'm at it, how about a maid and a night out? Then realizing, oh yeah...This is just where we are right now. Things are tight and messy. But, we have a home, and room to splurge on pizza nights, and snacks for the pool.
This is hard...but it is good.

Awaking repeatedly in the middle of night to comfort after nightmares, or sooth a hungry baby.
This is just hard. but, we are healthy and have jobs that give flexibility...so it's good.

Vacation seems to be a battle of managing toddler food, nap times, meltdowns and tantrums, let alone making it to the beach before the rain showers and rush of the crowds. But then, there is amazement in seeing first fireworks, flying kites, spending time with Grandmoms and great grandmoms.
This is hard...but it is good.

Reflecting the current state of your family and realizing how different it would be if only your mother were still here to see it all. Knowing your children will never have a tangible relationship with the person you so loved and miss with your whole heart. It hurts to see her life gone, but how joyous is life as it continues and we grow our family, sharing "Nana" through stories and pictures. I get to say her name daily when I say my sweet daughter's name.
This is hard...but it is good.

I know that life is full of continued surprises. We always get what is unexpected and uncomfortable. I am thankful for the good that comes from it all.

Ahhh summertime...





I guess in the beginning of May, "Aaaahhh Summertime" is something I may say a lot. I love the warmth, the laid back scheduling, the freedom for traveling, pools, parks, and staying up late.

Enter Mid July. "uggghhh, summer". Brad's schedule has him leave for camp, making me a single parent for 8 days straight. (Bless all you single moms out there. I really don't know how you do it day in and day out.) We were able to take advantage of the time to potty train and take swim lessons. However, at the end of the week, I was ready for summer to be over and anticipated a schedule once again. Then came 100 degree heat, overcrowding at the pool (yuck), and a desire to skimp of outdoor adventure and stay inside with the luxury of air conditioning. I'm really feeling ready for fall these days.

We did manage to take a family outing yesterday to go for a bike ride....meaning, we walk and Miles "rides". We went to a local park that has a long stretch of pavement meant for running/biking/walking, and turned him loose. So fun! And, no crowds...the HOT temperatures had scared everyone away (I'm sure they were at the pool instead....glad we weren't. I didn't want to have to wrestle any toys away from kids that "took" what didn't belong to them. I am referring to my own child as well as others. Who really like playing referee???...not me)

We did stop along our walk/ride to look at nature-ish things, bugs, rocks, sticks, a dead frog. Yes, I said a dead frog. Which, unfortunately resulted in a two year old crawling into bed with us at midnight after crying out from a dream/nightmare that a frog was trying to get him....hmmm.

Aaahhh summertime adventures.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Blogging

So. I have this folder on my computer full of blogging ideas that I have documented. They include memories, special events, photographs of those memories and events, crafting, home projects, fun ideas, matters of the heart....and the list goes on and on. Unfortunately, I'm not great at getting past that step. I will be...one day. Life is busy, and I'm a perfectionist. Getting these things down on here seems like a task most days. A task I'm not willing to spend too much time on. (Example 1: our last post is from January)

A lot has happened and I want to share. I also want to finish my thank you notes and get out our baby announcements (both from November...WOW)...

Like I said. Procrastinator. BIG TIME.

Well, I'm on my way there.

1. I have an updated blog as of today..YAY.
2. 5 thank you notes completed as of today.
3. I will be addressing our sweet baby girl announcements tonight...AND
including a picture of our (not so new) little girl addition....yeah
we had a baby in case you didn't know.

Here's to a cup of hot tea, two kids in bed, and some attention given to the U.s. Postal Service and the interweb.

Friday, January 14, 2011

My Favorite (and Easiest) Roast Chicken

So, I've realized that as a defunct Lit major and lover of good food, it makes perfect sense that I would enjoy reading about food online and then cooking it at home. There are several websites where I get recipes and ideas, and lately I ran across this one on thekitchn.com: How To Roast a Chicken.

This is a simple, inexpensive and delicious meal. There are a few areas where their procedure misses a bit, and I've added a few things. Full credit belongs to someone else though; I didn't create anything new. What I brought to the table is the rough equivalent of writing my own notes in the margin of a classic novel.

Still, classic novels are not easy to understand. They have the ability to be debated for hundreds of years, and still surprise readers. To be timeless, they have to be simple but not easy, deep but not complex. You see where I'm going here right? Sort of like a roasted chicken.

A great roasted chicken is beautiful to look at. It fills the house with an aroma that I want my home to smell like (second only to Leigh's Chocolate Chip Cookies) and feeds us as a family for several days. Roasted Chicken is fantastic as a dish to serve when having guests over, because everything is done at the same time and none of it requires you to be in the kitchen until the very end. This is what I picture when I think of a perfect family meal, and it deserves such a place of honor.

The problem with roasted chicken and classic novels though, is everyone wants to bring something new to the table. They use words like "dichotomy" or "duality" in excess to make themselves sound smarter (don't believe me? Watch any episode of Top Chef or sit in on a 200 or 300 level Lit class at the nearest college.) They're unwilling to recognize that something can be good without being weird.

Bringing this all back to chicken, it's an easy thing to get wrong. Everyone has had bad roasted chicken-dry, flavorless, and bony. We can try to hide it with rubs, seasoning, sauces and gravies, but it just doesn't work. I've cooked chicken in lots of ways that I've loved, that I would stack up against lots of recipes. Beer can chicken, butterflied chicken, fried chicken, chicken 'n dumplings...but this one is my hands down favorite. Why?

Tasty. Cheap. My wife eats it.

That's it right there folks. You can look back at the recipe as explained on thekitchn.com, but I'm going to give you the whole picture of what I do here in prose form. I'll even give you a rough estimate of how much this meal costs.

Ingredients needed:
One 4-5 pound whole fryer (we buy the hippie healthy kind)
1 1/2 - 2 pounds of new potatoes
One onion
One carrot
One stalk of celery (we always have onion, carrot and celery in our house)
One lemon
4-5 sprigs of rosemary (while you're at it, buy a plant and stick it in your yard)
Olive Oil
Fresh ground black pepper (not negotiable)
Kosher salt (again, not negotiable. Table salt tastes bad)

Assuming that you have seasonings on hand around the house, this meal is very cheap. The chicken costs around 6 bucks on sale, $1.50's worth of potatoes, a lemon is like 50 cents, and maybe 25 cents total in onion, carrot and celery. Grand total: $8.25 to feed 4 people (or me and Leigh twice!) If you want something green, some salad or green beans round out the meal nicely.

Equipment needed:
12" Cast iron skillet (if you don't have one, drop 20 bucks a Wal-Mart and it will change your life)
A digital probe thermometer (this is essential to cooking meat. Trust me it's worth it.)
One sharp chef's knife (this is the one knife I use the most. Everyone needs one)

Time Commitment:
About 2 hours: 20 minutes worth of prep time, 1 and a half hours to cook (but don't time it, use the thermometer) and 10 minutes to carve and plate.

How you do it:
Turn the oven on to 450 degrees.

Chop all the potatoes into bite sized pieces and put them into a bowl. Coat them in olive oil, tossing the potatoes around to distribute evenly. Mince up some of the rosemary leaves and toss those through the potatoes (it should look like a lot) and then season liberally with salt and pepper. When I say liberal, think MSNBC and go for it.

Arrange all these potatoes around the outside edge of the skillet, leaving an open area in the middle. Roughly chop the remaining veggies and fill that area in the middle with them (no real need to season those, unless you plan to eat them. I don't.) So you know where this is going, we're trying to have the chicken rest on the carrot, celery and onion, not the potatoes.


Now for the chicken. Open it up, pull all those gross parts out of the inside, and lay it out where you can work with it. This next part changed everything for me--dry the outside of the bird with a towel. Then, lightly lube it with olive oil. This combined with a high cooking temperature is the key to crispy skin.

After lubing the bird, season the inside and out with salt and pepper. Make sure you get all sides of the legs and thighs, and around the corners on the breasts. Then, cut the lemon in half and stuff it inside the body cavity of the bird along with some folded up branches of rosemary.


Finally, lay the bird on top of the veggies breast side up and stick the end of your probe thermometer into the thigh (if you don't have the sort with the long chord, then you'll have to check it at the end of cooking). Set your thermometer to go off at 165 degrees, shove the whole mess in the oven and start cleaning up. After 10 minutes have gone by, then turn the oven down to 400 degrees and keep it there until the bird is done.


This is different from the original with the addition of potatoes and rosemary. The potatoes are the part that threatens to steal the show. The get soft and crispy at the same time, taking a depth of flavor that can only come from being cooked in the drippings from the chicken. As for the bird, the steam that comes off from the lemon along with the fragrance of the rosemary create a flavorful, juicy chicken where the meat falls off the bone. All this is hidden beneath a crispy skin that I'll fight people for.


In the end, when we're done carving and eating it looks like this:


Which is excellent for making stock, which you then make into chicken soup, or chicken n' dumplings, or giving to your dog if you want an ridiculous emergency vet bill.

Enjoy!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

More Green Hat Oops Daddy!

Aaahh the sweetness of bedtime and the routines that we have. This book is officially off the "list" of bedtime stories due to its ability to set Miles back a few steps in his "readiness" for bed...oh well. I just can't seem to get enough of the giggling!

P.S. Don't watch this if you don't like laughter, videos of story time, or if you just have a cold heart...seriously.


video

Friday, August 6, 2010

36 hours and 3 days later...

Here is a picture of our life this week. Things have been crazy, busy, scary, and most importantly relieving of the goodness of our God.

Tuesday Morning, we sent out this email:


Hey Friends,
Yesterday Leigh and I received a call from her OBGYN asking us to come in to discuss something they saw in the ultrasound taken a week and a half ago. When we arrived, our doctor told us of two things that showed up in the image, both of which seem to have left him scratching his head.

The first is some sort of abnormality on the baby’s head. We do know it is off to the side, and all the inner cranial structures appear to be intact. It’s almost like there’s a sort of bubble on the outside of the skull, and they haven’t seen it (at least like this) before. He told us that it could be a false image, something appears to be there but in fact is not. It could be a cyst of some kind that’s filled with fluid that, once drained, is no big deal. Or it could be something else. Something else is what scares us.

The second is a calcification, or hard spot, in her heart. These are very common in babies, and generally not a big deal. The difference here is ours is not in the usual place. Again, no real ideas on what this means, just that it’s not the norm.

So, today at 2:45 Leigh and I will be going to Forsyth Medical to have a better, more specialized ultrasound done. We’ll be there for several hours, and at the end talk with a doc who specializes in reading these sorts of ultrasounds. Hopefully when we’re done we’ll know more. Our hope is that this is a false image, and that our little girl (if you didn’t know, she’s a girl!) is fine and healthy. For me, I take some comfort in the fact that the doctor can’t explain what he’s seeing.

Leigh and I are about as one would expect. Both of us are afraid, unsure of how to feel, and scared to hope for good news and terrified of bad news. There’s definitely a sense of, “Really God? Can’t this go easy? I can’t do hard any more. It feels like we just finished hard.” We’ve spent all our time dreaming of names, how to decorate, and looking at cute baby girl clothes. You don’t really think about this stuff.

This morning Leigh woke up with the song based on Zeph 3:17 stuck in her head. Which is not normal—I couldn’t tell you the last time we’ve sung that. Which, in our opinion, makes it God at work. This is what the song says: “The Lord your God is with you. He is mighty to save. The Lord will take great delight in you. He will quiet you with His love. He will rejoice over you with singing.”

Please pray with and for us. Pray for a healthy baby girl. Pray for Leigh and I to have the courage to trust God. Pray for us to know how to love each other and Miles in the midst of uncertainty. Thank you for being our friends and walking through life with us.
Love,
Brad

Tuesday evening we sent out this email:


Everything is great! EVERYTHING!

Thank you all for praying for us and our daughter today. For Leigh and I, it has been a place where we've seen God intervene in our lives in an amazing way. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

When we sat with our doc yesterday, it was the only time I've ever seen him worried. The only time he's ever called us in for a special unscheduled appointment. He didn't know what he saw in the ultrasound, and it bothered him. He wanted to be thorough, and we're so grateful for that.

Today, after two rounds of ultrasounds with two different doctors and two different techs, we were given a resounding "all clear." In fact, so resounding that they were baffled as to why we were there to begin with. They kept looking at things over and over, measuring body parts, and asking again and again what exactly the problem was that sent us there, because they could see nothing wrong. Nothing at all!

I don't know if I've ever known relief and release like I did when we left the last doctor. I didn't realize how scared I really was. Leigh and I were both laughing and crying, giddy. And so thankful. We know that God is sovereign over any outcome, but we're so grateful for this one. Thank you for coming alongside us and praying. There's a part of me that wants to share snippets of emails with all of you, so you can see how well you've cared for us. Thank you for being in our lives.

Side note--we came home to a package on the porch. It was the first set of PJ's that Leigh had ordered for our little girl. She was so afraid that we'd come home with bad news to find them waiting. God has been so good to us!

In Him with a full heart,
Brad

3 days later:

I still find myself crying over those 36 hours we experienced at the start of this week. While praying during those hours, I struggled with my faith in this outcome. The "hard" that we went through just a year ago with the loss of my Mom was still such a fresh wound on my heart. I have dealt with trusting the process of prayer and feelings of jealousy in the trials of others that had "better" outcomes, questioned why our results were not different and if my faith was lacking. I have wanted to run away, hide, and more or less stopped praying. If I didn't pray, I couldn't be let down or feel abandoned. But truth persued me. God is good. Always good. We are broken, part of a broken world, and if results don't gratify, it is hard to have faith that it is still God being good. His plan, though not ours, is good and perfect.

I was scared to continue on through this process and have results, knowing I could be hurt, left scratching my head, throwing fists in the air...again. I had no idea that the outcome would change me again, this time pointing me towards Christ. While talking with an old friend today, he told Brad after learning about our scare, "you can look at this two ways and both with reflect your faith. One is, NOTHING was there to begin with and later ultrasounds proved that fact, or you can believe that THERE WAS SOMETHING there and God's hand intervened. Faith lies in how you receive it." If you ask me, there was something there and then it was not. Right now we are reminded that our little girl is a GIFT....not a promise. I am filled with an overabundance of joy, living in the fact that His compassions NEVER FAIL (lamentations 3:22) learning to be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer (Romans 12:12)